The reddish egret, which calls the U.S. Gulf Coast its home, faces continuing threats from degrading water quality and shorefront development, warns a new WatchList report of at-risk U.S. birds.
The egret is also still recovering from mass commercial hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when its beautiful feathers were in high demand for fashion items.
Most of the species listed in the 2007 Watchlist, including the egret, lack any sort of designation under the Endangered Species Act, according to the Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy which sponsored the report.
Giving the birds such status is of prime importance, the writers add, since many species that have been given federal protection have stabilized or even increased.
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Photograph by Tim Laman/ National Geographic/Getty Images